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Automation in a Beverage Organization

The Challenge

The manufacturing plant in question – which supplies finished products on pallets to a number of Distribution Centres around the world – had no automated stacking or wrapping facilities. Pallets were manually stacked on line and were wrapped by an operator using an electric turntable to spin the pallet while manually wrapping or using a basic wrapping function on the equipment.

As a result, the plant scored quite badly in monthly reports issued by the CIMAT warehouses detailing number of outages in tails, verticality, labelling, etc. Problems such as overhand, stretchwrap tails and broken pallets could cause them to be accidentally dislodged from a high rise rack, resulting in potential damage to the facility and down time to clean up any spillage of product.

The Solution

  • Attended training on pallet quality at a CIMAT warehouse.
  • Worked with the distribution centers to understand in detail which areas in particular outages existed. Item level reports were supplied which allowed each issue to be traced back to a particular line/team.
  • The Finished pallet Quality owner acted as a single point of contact for all their queries resulting in a better perception of service from the plant.
  • It was agreed with the Operations Manager that responsibility for pallet quality lay with his organization. After this his leadership team was trained on pallet quality and they trained their teams (with the assistance of the pallet quality owner)
  • Issues with labels were solved by purchasing barcode label printers which were initially used on a trial basis on two lines and then deployed to all lines.
  • Label quality was ensured by scanning all pallets as they entered the warehouse. Pallets with unreadable labels were returned to operations to be re-labelled.
  • Issues with stretchwrap, verticality and overhang were compiled from the distribution centre reports and shared on a weekly basis with the operations teams. Each outage was root caused and shared with the line team members.  Copies of this report were also shared with senior site management.
  • Daily spot checks took place of pallets waiting to be shipped in the warehouse. Pallets with problems with stretchwrap, verticality and overhang were labelled as reject and returned to operations once discovered.
  • The Shipping team were authorized to delay shipments if pallets had to be returned to operations for rework.
  • A number of products were identified with pallet patterns which did not remain within the required dimensions of a pallet. These patterns were sent back to the Technical packaging organization to be re-worked.

A Results board was set up beside the finished product area where the performance of each line could be reviewed and all training material was available.

The Results

  • Pallet Quality improved from 50%+ defects to the target of below 5%.
  • Pallet quality became a key consideration for the operations teams producing the pallets and ownership was transferred from the warehouse to the operations team.
  • Plans to purchase automated pallet stackers and wrappers were reviewed to make sure that all pallets would meet CIMAT standards
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